Thursday, August 20, 2009
At a recent Colorado town hall, University of Colorado at Boulder student Zach Lahn asked President Obama how private insurers could be expected to compete with a public health care plan. Lahn, 23, also told Obama, "I'd love to have a debate just all out, anytime, Oxford-style, if you'd like" on health care.
Obama answered that UPS and FedEx are a doing a lot better than the Post Office. (If I were Obama, I wouldn't mention the post office while touting public health care.) Then the president observed, "It's good to see a young person who's very engaged and confident challenging the president to an Oxford-style debate." And: "I like that. You got to have a little chutzpah, you know."
A little chutzpah? Methinks Obama is losing the air of genuineness that served him so well during the 2008 campaign. Me also thinks I could have been that kid 30 years ago. Except then, the adults around me would have scolded me later for not showing respect for the president's office and experience.
For all his mouth, Lahn ended up espousing his views on CNN.
"And you're ready to debate others in an Oxford-style debate as well, I assume?" CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked him Monday. Well, Lahn replied, he might be willing to debate those "making decisions for this country."
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, told me he thought Lahn was one of his students. "I've seen so many exactly like him." If our generation was arrogant, this generation is over-endowed with "a sense of entitlement. They expect (to start in) upper-middle management, if they're not running the place."
That said, this sense of entitlement is not limited to young voters. Consider the town hall attendees who hectored Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Penn. -- whom I don't particularly like -- with the chant, "You work for us." Like he's their waiter.
Senators and members of Congress don't "work for" voters -- like kitchen help. They represent voters. Sabato described the distinction
thusly: "A member of Congress works for close to 700,000 people. That means that any given individual is a grain of sand upon the shore and needs to recognize that. It's not to say we're unimportant, but we are not individually their boss. As a group, we are their boss. It's their responsibility to interpret the group as a whole, and not simply take instructions from every one of the 700,000 individuals."
And: Elected officials are not mere order-takers, but trustees who learn things on the job -- and are duty bound to give voters not what they want at a moment, but what is in the public's best interest long term.
Sabato believes some voters are angry because they see a D.C.
health care plan being shoved down their throats. At another town hall, plainspoken Montanan Randy Rathie, told the president: "That's all we get is bull. You can't tell us how you're going to pay for this."
I look at ObamaCare and see the California Budget Mess all over again. When lawmakers promise European-style services at American tax rates, the only sure result is more debt.
But that's what American voters chose when they went for the candidate who promised universal health care with no new taxes for 95 percent of American families. Entitlement is a rush -- until the bill comes due.
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